Super Mom versus Messy Mom

The Museum of Messy

A few years ago my sister-in-law shared a funny meme that still makes me laugh to this day:

No, my living room is not messy. I just have everything out on display. Like a museum.

It’s funny because it’s true. If you have lived in a home with any amount of people (children, a spouse, friends, etc.) you know that it’s hard to keep it tidy. Depending on your personality you might settle for the mess because cleaning up just feels like it’s in vain. In our culture we tend to celebrate or vilify two types of moms—the “clean mom” or the “messy mom”. The clean mom often has her home in order, has crafts and healthy snacks for her kids, and enjoys cleaning. The messy mom is content to let things be, boasts of her messes, and disdains cleaning. Most of us fall somewhere along the middle, but we all have at one point judged one of the other.

A Product of Our Cultural Moment

I live in a home that includes three children ages four and under (with the fourth due to arrive this summer), so I am pretty much always displaying toys, books, and various odds and ends like a museum. I present no illusions of cleaning grandeur. While I do my best to keep things orderly, I can barely keep the dishes and laundry going. Depending on the day, I vacillate between being the clean mom or the messy mom, though messiness has always been my natural tendency.

Like the meme implies, the messy-mom mantra is a popular one these days. I suppose it’s a rejection of the clean mom of years gone by. We aren’t trying to be June Cleaver anymore, we are just trying to get by. Even our cleaning commercials show a frazzled mom or dad, not one who has it all together. In fact, we sort of judge the clean mom, wondering how on earth she keeps her house so tidy with little (or big) people repeatedly bringing their mess into it. Fed up with trying to do it all, we settle for doing the bare minimum.

In a lot of ways we’ve traded one idol for another. Content to let the unrealistic perfection of the 1950s housewife leave our cultural expectations, we instead prop up the idol of “messiness” because we would rather be authentic than seem to be trying too hard. Of course, for every messy mom there is a mom (or dad) out there who takes pleasure in a tidy home. But in our cultural moment, we are far more likely to judge that person than praise them.

Work is God’s way of loving the world through our labors.

For both, there is a temptation to make an idol out of whatever spectrum you fall on, and to lose the point of work entirely in the process. Work is God’s way of loving the world through our labors. To embrace the mess (without caveat or in a spirit of laziness) fails to love the people who inhabit our home, in the same way that being a slave to the Swiffer values cleanliness at the expense of the people who make the mess in the first place.

A Better Way

If you are tempted to either of those extremes (clean or messy, or maybe somewhere in between), the Bible has a better answer for you. Colossians 3:23–24 says:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

And Psalm 90:17 says:

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

In both of these verses the answer is found not in our ability or our lack of ability. God is the focal point of our work. He is the one who is honored when we work hard, even when we see the need for rest and take it. When we work, we are serving Christ, not man. God is the one who gets glory from our labors. He is the one who multiplies the work we do, even when it seems small. Our standing before God (and the world) in our work is not based on a clean home (or a messy one). He certainly gets glory when we work hard, but faithfulness is our model, not perfection. On the flipside of that, faithfulness is our model, not resignation.

Glory in the Ordinary

Courtney Reissig

This book combats misunderstandings about the value of at-home work to help moms see how Christ infuses glorious meaning and significance into every facet of ordinary life.

At the end of the day, it is true that you will not get more points in heaven if you clean up the toys off the floor, instead of displaying them “like a museum.” And there are many a day where that’s all you can do. But you also won’t get more points in heaven for sacrificing your relationship on the altar of cleanliness.

Let faithfulness in your season be your standard, knowing that God is the one makes your work fruitful.

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